Over the years we’ve seen many competent games set in the stone age, such as Joe & Mac or Chuck Rock. Now, with the release of the Nintendo Switch there is a new foray into the prehistoric period from developer JanduSoft with Caveman Warriors. I really appreciated the nostalgic nature of the title for side-scrollers of the past while providing an authentic experience on its own. Unfortunately, Caveman Warriors authenticity does bring about some frustration from a design perspective like the titles of yesteryear.
Caveman Warriors is an up to four player action-platformer set in the caveman days obviously. You are tasked with guiding four playable characters — Moe, Jack, Brienne, and Liliana — as they journey to rescue their children from the clutches of a mysterious alien race. As you go through the eight levels of the story there are additional stages that can be unlocked by finding these mysterious batteries scattered throughout any given level.
There is not a ton of story elements to Caveman Warriors, only represented by comic book panels in-between levels that tell you what’s going on while you try to save your children from the aliens. The four characters you control each have their own strengths and weaknesses, and each one has a unique ability that can only get you through a certain part of the level. If you are playing as only one player to two players, you can switch between the two other characters you are not playing as at any point by simply pressing the R and L shoulder buttons.
The best part about Caveman Warriors is how the four playable cavemen/women each have their own attacks, stats, and special abilities. Jack’s charge can break through certain obstructions, while Liliana’s throw-able spears can be used in certain walls as a makeshift platform. The need to switch between the characters is brought about at a good pace across the short run time, never feeling too strenuous. Playing with others alleviates the stress of switching between characters and is more fun as a result. Unfortunately, it is only local multiplayer at this time.
The action and platforming is simple yet fun. Almost all regular enemies die in one or two hits so you are encouraged to keep a fast-pace to get through the levels; even though there are some deliberate areas that require precision which can be at odds with the pacing. The boss encounters at the end of each stage are a definite highlight with some great creativity, and they take some puzzle solving to figure out their weaknesses. The actual platforming, while not having any glaring issues, has that retro knock-back effect which means when you get hit by an enemy you can be knocked off of a cliff. This will not immediately kill you, but it does take a good chunk of your health off and can lead to frustration.
Caveman Warriors has a nice retro feel and challenge to it. The artwork, while somewhat generic, has that flash animation look which some players may or may not be fans of. I did appreciate the retro call-backs with certain items you can find, but there are some glaring examples of some inconsistencies in the presentation. For example, there are many different items that can be found in crates or dropped from enemies including fruit and chunks of meat, or even Game Boys and red hats strangely reminiscent of a certain very popular Nintendo character. I wasn’t always quite sure of which items gave you health and which gave you stamina as they all vary significantly sometimes leaving you in a bind.
Overall, if you are looking for another multiplayer game with a retro feel and challenge to it, Caveman Warriors may be for you. Unfortunately, it’s hard for Caveman Warriors to hold your attention for very long as the presentation and gameplay are underwhelming in some regards. Collecting the hidden mystery batteries to unlock secret levels offers some replay-ability, but other than occasionally participating in local multiplayer there is very little reason to return.